Women in bed with tummy pain.

Endometriosis: Learn More About This Common Condition

Understanding endometriosis and its potential to cause severe pain and fertility issues is an important step in taking control of your health and wellness.

Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases – affecting roughly 10% of reproductive age women and girls globally. Despite how common it is, many women aren’t aware of what symptoms to look for or how it may impact their health and fertility, leaving many with untreated pain and fertility issues.

It’s time to learn more about endometriosis, its symptoms and what treatments are available to help you manage its impact on your health and wellness.

What Is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus and in other areas of your body where it doesn’t belong. Most often, it is found on or under the ovaries, on the fallopian tubes, behind the uterus, on the tissues that hold the uterus in place, or on the bowels or bladder.

The misplaced tissue grows into nodules or lesions. The growths are benign, but they can still cause health problems, including pain, infertility and very heavy periods.

What Are the Symptoms of Endometriosis?

Endometriosis impacts women’s bodies in different ways. Some women have severe, debilitating pelvic pain; other women have no symptoms at all and may only learn of it after experiencing infertility. Common symptoms can include:

  • Pain – Pain can include very painful menstrual cramps, chronic pain in the lower back or pelvis, pain during or after sex, intestinal pain, painful bowel movements or pain when urinating during menstrual periods.
  • Bleeding or spotting – This bleeding occurs between menstrual periods.
  • InfertilityAlmost 4 in 10 women with infertility have endometriosis. For women without pain, infertility may be the first symptom they notice.
  • Stomach or digestive problems – These problems can include bloating, diarrhea, constipation or nausea, especially during your period.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider. Your health care provider may give you a pelvic exam to feel for large cysts or scars behind your uterus, and may also do an ultrasound or an MRI to check for ovarian cysts. Health care providers can also perform laparoscopy, a surgery that uses a thin tube with a camera and a light to examine the patches of endometriosis.

Who Is At Risk for Endometriosis?

Anyone who has a menstrual period can get endometriosis and it is most common among women in their 30s and 40s. However, according to the Office on Women’s Health, there are certain factors that may make it more likely for you to get it, including if:

  • You’ve never had children.
  • Your menstrual periods are heavy and last more than seven days.
  • You have short menstrual cycles (27 days or less).
  • You have a family member with endometriosis such as a mother, aunt or sister.
  • You have a health problem that blocks the normal flow of menstrual blood from your body during your period.

What Treatments Are Available for Endometriosis?

There is no cure for endometriosis, but there are several different treatment options available to help you manage the symptoms or to increase your chances of becoming pregnant, including:Pharmacist showing a medicine to a client.

  • Over-the-counter pain medications to reduce your pain symptoms
  • Hormone therapy to stop your ovaries from making hormones, including different forms of birth control to help lessen your pelvic pain during your period or gonadotropin-releasing hormone medicines which block your menstrual cycle and cause temporary menopause
  • Surgical treatments, usually chosen if medicine isn’t providing relief or if you’re having fertility issues, allowing your health care provider to find and remove areas of endometriosis
  • Alternative health care approaches such as acupuncture, chiropractic care or supplements to provide additional symptom relief

How Can I Reduce My Risk for Endometriosis?

You can’t prevent endometriosis, but you can reduce your chances of developing it by lowering the levels of estrogen you have in your body in the following ways:

  • Use hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, patches or rings with lower doses of estrogen.
  • Exercise regularly. This can help decrease the amount of estrogen circulating in your body and can help you maintain a lower amount of body fat, which also lowers the amount of estrogen you have.
  • Avoid large amounts of alcohol or caffeine. Both caffeinated drinks and alcohol have been shown to raise estrogen levels.

What Resources Are Available to Support Me?

Understanding endometriosis and its potential to cause severe pain and fertility issues is an important step in taking control of your health and wellness.

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